Abstract

Pathogens can alter host life-history traits by affecting host feeding activities. In anuran tadpoles, keratinized mouthparts (teeth and jaw sheaths) are essential for feeding. Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis (Bd) is a pathogenic fungus of amphibians that can infect these mouthparts and reduce tadpole survival. However, the precise way that Bd-induced changes in tadpole mouthparts impact tadpole feeding is unknown. We use high-speed (500 frames/sec) videography to study how Bd-induced mouthpart deformities affect the feeding kinematics of Fowler's toad (Anaxyrus [ =  Bufo] fowleri) and grey tree frog (Hyla chrysoscelis) tadpoles. We tested for species-specific patterns of Bd-induced mouthpart deformities to assess how deformations to specific areas of tadpole mouthparts alter feeding kinematics. The teeth of tadpoles from the Bd-exposed treatment slipped off of surfaces on which tadpoles graze and were in contact with an algal-covered substratum for a shorter duration in each gape cycle compared to teeth of control tadpoles. We also found that the jaw sheaths had significantly more deformations than labial teeth; however, how this relates to feeding kinematics is unclear. Our data show explicitly how Bd infection reduces foraging efficiency of anuran tadpoles by altering feeding kinematics and elucidate a mechanistic link between the pathogen infection and reduced host fitness.

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